Christ in the OT: An Ancient Hermeneutic

Finding Christ in the Old Testament is an ancient hermeneutic. Modern evangelicals did not discover the fact that Christ is on every page of the OT Scriptures. This interpretive method has been around since the days of the early church when the apostles were still alive preaching and writing. The church fathers also interpreted the OT in a very Christ centered way. In fact, it could probably be argued that the church fathers were more Christ centered in their OT interpretive methods than many Christian teachers are today.

For one example of many, Augustine very clearly approached the OT searching for Christ with eyes of faith. In his treatise called “Reply to Faustus the Manichaean” he spent an entire section arguing this very point. Faustus denied that the OT contained prophecies and predictions about Christ. Augustine replied with an in-depth review of OT history and showed many ways it spoke of Christ. Here are some excerpts from this section:

…We reject those false teachers whose Christ is false, or rather, whose Christ never existed. For we have a Christ true and truthful, foretold by the prophets, preached by the apostles, who in innumerable places refer to the testimonies of the law and the prophets in support of their preaching.

You say that Christ was not foretold by the prophets of Israel, when, in fact, their Scriptures teem with such predictions, if you would only examine them carefully, instead of treating them with levity (a frivolous manner).

To enumerate all the passages in the Hebrew prophets referring to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, would exceed the limits of a volume, not to speak of the brief replies of which this treatise consists. The whole contents of these Scriptures are either directly or indirectly about Christ. Often the reference is allegorical or enigmatical, perhaps in a verbal allusion, or in a historical narrative, requiring diligence in the student, and rewarding him with the pleasure of discovery. Other passages, again, are plain; for, without the help of what is clear, we could not understand what is obscure. And even the figurative passages, when brought together, will be found so harmonious in their testimony to Christ as to put to shame the obtuseness of the sceptic.

In every page of these Scriptures, while I pursue my search as a son of Adam in the sweat of my brow, Christ either openly or covertly meets and refreshes me. 

It is impossible, in a digression like this, to refer, however briefly, to all the figurative predictions of Christ which are to be found in the law and the prophets. Will it be said that these things happened in the regular course of things, and that it is a mere ingenious fancy to make them typical of Christ? Such an objection might come from Jews and Pagans; but those who wish to be considered Christians must yield to the authority of the apostle when he says, “All these things happened to them for an example;” and again, “These things are our examples.

Augustine of Hippo. “Reply to Faustus the Manichæan.” St. Augustin: The Writings against the Manichaeans and against the Donatists, edited by Philip Schaff, translated by Richard Stothert, vol. 4, Christian Literature Company, 1887.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015